Fifteen miles north of Leaksville, Mississippi, in the community of Avera, where the Old Avera Road crosses the Chickasawhay River, one will find a rare and still existing inland lighthouse.
According to owner Sue Robertson, the lighthouse was built between 1840 and 1850 as a general mercantile store and lighthouse for riverboat traffic on the Chickasawhay River. The original store owners, William Worth Avera and Lawrence A. Avera, apparently did a good business on the well-traveled Chickasawhay River, eventually purchasing the steamship Viola to transport passengers and cargo to and from Moss Point, Mississippi, approximately 70 miles south of Avera. Sue’s grandfather, L. D. Clark Sr., purchased the store in 1911 and operated the store until the late 1930s. It was then passed on to his son, L. D. Clark Jr., who turned the building into a family dwelling in 1941. Today, the inland lighthouse is owned by Sue and her son David Pryne.
The store featured a large cupola in the center of the tin roof. Sue Robertson explains the cupola still retains the original pulleys used to pull up the chersonese lantern used to guide the way for traders and travelers on the Chickasawhay. The lighthouse also retains the self-supporting round wooden stairway leading to the cupola, built with wooden pegs by a German construction worker. The 19 steps wind around 360 degrees twice from the living area to the lantern room.
The September 16, 1911 deed from
W. W. Avera to L. D. Clark includes the following conveyances: “All merchandise and total stock of goods and store house, warehouse, market house, wagon shed, wagon house, Copper shed and all tools, blacksmith tools and shed, one gasoline engine, one pit of rosin, one turpentine still, 23 turpentine barrels, all oak barrels, three log carts, two ox wagons, one horse cart, one store house and warehouse at State Line Mississippi.”
James T. Dunnam, president of the Greene County Museum and Historical Society, explains that Avera was a growing community during the mid-1880s, having a local school, post office, and other buildings near the general store. Logging and lumber were leading economic interests in the area, with logs rafted down the river. The Society has many interesting pictures of teams of 10 or more oxen used in the area to transport virgin timber. Not far from the inland lighthouse was a ferry where John West Avera was killed in an accident on the river while attempting to rescue two workers who had fallen overboard from the ferry. Mr. Dunnam maintains a website at www.usgennet.org for Green County preservation, which includes pictures of the lighthouse and the construction of the original bridge over the Chickasawhay River, which is located next to the lighthouse.
Sue Robertson and son David Pryne have not sought to have the lighthouse placed on a historical register because of their desire not to be obligated to conform to historical guidelines, but did open it once for public inspection on April 17, 1994. They were amazed that several hundred visitors from Mississippi and other states attended the event. Sue retains a number of items from the old store, including the candy case.
This story appeared in the
August 2005 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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